The following guest post is from Scarlett Rose, who is a popular cosplayer, actress, editor, and gamer! She reached out to me about a guest post on a JRPG that I enjoyed very much, so I am happy to be able to share her work with my wonderful readers.
Check out her bio and links at the bottom, and comment on what you thought of the post. The site she is part of, YourMoneyGeek, has some good articles on finances so check that out also!
Many video games we play for a temporary escape from reality. Some of those games leave a lasting impression on us that results in a profound connection to its characters and tale. Both deep and unique, Final Fantasy X falls amongst the unforgettable.
Final Fantasy X contains an unparalleled beauty in both its breathtaking visuals and complex storyline. This game is regarded for being the first Final Fantasy JRPG to have fully voiced characters as well as amazing graphics. What many neglected to mention is the deep complexity of multiple aspects of this brilliant storyline.
Not only was it spiritually inclined, but it more than dabbled in religious reference in truly discerning ways.
The Destruction of Zanarkand and the Introduction of Sin
The story of Final Fantasy X is told by Tidus, a sports star from the futuristic metropolis called Zanarkand. During a match, Tidus gets swept up to another world and joins summoner Yuna and her friends on her journey to save the world of Spira from a rampaging monster known as Sin. Making their way toward the mythical Zanarkand while running into the corrupt undercurrent of Spira’s society, Tidus holds onto the hope he will one day find his way back home.
Zanarkand itself appears very modernized with fancy lights, a plethora of ‘Machina’ (Machines), and a slew of modern nuances. It is truly a world full of contemporary desires. It is also noticeably clear that Sin arrived in Zanarkand with the intention of wiping out their world.
So, what happened to Zanarkand? The city-states of Bevelle and Zanarkand warred with each other for reasons unknown. Bevelle had advanced technology, the machina, on their side, Zanarkand had the ancient magics of its summoners. Bevelle’s weapons were going to win and win easily, so Zanarkand’s leader sacrificed the city’s remaining populace to create Sin. Sin promptly and undesirably took up arms on Zanarkand and destroyed it, ending the Machina War. Sin’s creator? Zanarkand’s leader – a man called Yu Yevon.
The parallels between the religious concept of what is considered Sin (or a sinful act) and the distaste for the modern negligence of the spiritual world are presented right there in the very first scene. It was quite a bold move to have a main boss named Sin arrive to bring chaos and destruction, along with the mystery surrounding what would be the Yevon religion.
What becomes even more fascinating is what happens after Zanarkand is destroyed.
Tidus Awakening in a New Reality
When Tidus awakes he finds himself in a temple ruin where he sets up a camp. When a monster attacks, a group of strangers save him, which includes the infamous Rikku. She explains that they are Al Bhed, people who use the now forbidden machina technology. It is then that you learn that Zanarkand had been destroyed by Sin 1,000 years ago, and it is now considered a holy place. The reference of such a location now being holy is a remarkably interesting concept, and here is why:
After Sin arrives and knocks Tidus off their ship he wakes up on a sunny beach and is glad to see something familiar: a group of islanders playing blitzball. After showing off his skills the islanders flock around him and the leader of the group, Wakka, explains that Tidus has arrived at Besaid Island. He is unnerved when Tidus mentions his home city is Zanarkand and chalks up Tidus’s behavior to his recent encounters with Sin. Wakka explains Sin is a monster that rose 1,000 years ago, destroying the machina cities, including Zanarkand, as a result of human crimes and the use of machina.
Tidus then travels with Wakka to what appears to be a very primitive village, which is quite interesting considering it is now 1,000 years in the future. This is where he meets a summoner named Yuna. Yuna is a holy figure, somewhat like a priest of sorts, under the church of Yevon. She will be going on a pilgrimage, amongst other summoners, to defeat sin. Summoners also assist the dead by sending their spirits to the farplane so they do not become monsters. The farplane can equally be considered their distinction of Heaven or an afterlife. Although, it is more so regarded in the game as the only next step in passing.
It has now become apparent at this early stage in the game that the concept of modern machinery, and the use of it, is now considered an unholy criminal act. The church and the modern entity are at odds with each other, and fear is being utilized in order to sustain power.
The world of Spira is now torn between the present and the past. Due to the people of Spira being pulled in two different directions by the strong religion of Yevan and the Al Bhed’s desire to explore machina, they are venturing through a world full of discovery and questioning beliefs.
The Importance of Pilgrimage & The Origins of Yu Yevon
Even though the story is technically about Tidus, Yuna’s pilgrimage in Final Fantasy X is one of the most important aspects of the game. The group is setting out for Yuna to go to each temple and obtain summons as a necessary sacrifice to defeat Sin. This may be Yuna’s pilgrimage, but many of the characters are learning and exploring their own belief and thoughts, Tidus included.
But what is the purpose of these required pilgrimages? Why did they start to begin with? This all goes back to the destruction of Zanarkand, and Yu Yevon being essentially turned into a martyr.
Yu Yevon became Spira’s version of a Christ figure, in a subtle parallel to the many different arguments surrounding who Jesus actually was. FFX’s point is: Nobody knows, and the time for questions has passed.
This brings us to the church of Yevon, clearly based upon Yu Yevon. The Church of Yevon appeases the populous and maintains its power structure by insisting that Sin will only truly disappear once everyone has properly atoned through following their teachings. There is no rationale given for why this would work, and especially not when it will work. Nobody questions it. They are too afraid. The absence of technology and education created in this age requires that the people just believe and keep the Yevon fayth.
The more overt parallel in regard to Yu Yevon is the concept that Jesus’ martyrdom created something misunderstood by many and misused by many more. Yu Yevon’s martyrdom did the same for an especially important reason. Yu Yevon’s martyrdom was fully created by the people.
Zanarkand’s leader, Yu Yevon, sacrificed the city’s remaining populace to create Sin.
Spira’s savior is Yevon, and Yevon is Sin, Spira’s oppressor.
FFX and their Interpretation of Religious History
The end of war creates a desperate hope that war will not happen again. Fear is Final Fantasy X’s answer, and fear is exploitable. Final Fantasy X took the concept of control and placed it within Yevon’s grasp. FFX contends that the entire religion of Yevon, is an accident; a strange turn of events seized by opportunists. In only 1,000 years, the majority of an entire world is indentured to its Yevon church.
FFX even speaks of organized religion’s virtues like a strong sense of community along with an aspect of hypocrisy. All races on Spira are united under Yevon, but only so long as they follow the teachings. Being that those teachings seem to be on the hypocritical side. The progressive Al Bhed are outcast as heathens for their interest in the technology that defined the Machina War. Machina is aggressively banned by the church.
So here is where Final Fantasy X takes that twist:
Upon visiting Spira’s holy epicenter Bevelle, machina are to be seen in abundance. The mere suggestion of using them is enough to condemn an entire minority, it seems, but machina “officially sanctioned” by Yevon that fulfill identical and even warlike roles to the ones Rikku and co. go diving for are fine. Yevon’s word is law unlawful to itself: “Machina started our troubles,” is their excuse, “so machina is not allowed. Except for us.”
Unfortunately, the Church of Yevon took matters into their own hands. They created their form of a martyr which evidently was what would be considered a false God. In a strange way, this brings us back to thoughts of stories in the bible where the people would lose their way and somewhat unknowingly worship that distorted concept of God. It was that false worship that led those people down the wrong path. The same can be said about those in the Church of Yevon utilizing fear to control their people.
In the End, This is Their Story
Overall, the story of Final Fantasy X was beautifully written with delicate cross-references to the religions of Catholicism as well as Buddhism.
The underlying parts of the story make those of us think about how all those people of Spira fell victim to a false God. Sadly, it was people following people instead of utterly understanding the concept of their fayth. It is impossible not to have heartfelt feelings toward the characters in this story as they work through the pressures of their reality.
There is much to be learned from their journey of self-discovery in Final Fantasy X. Many may find that they may have learned something from their tale. Out of all the games that I have played in the series, this story truly stayed ingrained within my memory.
Both beautiful and at times rather melancholy, Final Fantasy X deserves not only a playthrough but a deeper understanding of how deeply profound it’s message truly can be.
Scarlett Rose is a professional cosplayer, actress, published model, and mother of rabbits.
When she is not crafting armor or building costumes, she can be found playing the latest video game or enjoying a retro classic.
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